As a young man, John Robert Lewis heard the words of a nearby Baptist preacher talking about the Beloved Community. For Mr. Lewis, Dr. King’s message was the clarion call he was searching for. Dr. King’s words inspired a 17-year-old Lewis to act. He acted by taking to the streets, much in the same way as white, black, and brown young people today, those saying “Black Lives Matter.” While supported by whites, Mr. Lewis’s work wasn’t only to benefit African-Americans. Movements around the world and here benefited from the civil rights effort.
Mr. Lewis said Dr. King’s Beloved Community is founded on justice, not for anyone oppressed group, but all people. As Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Dr. King felt that justice could not be parceled out to individuals or groups, but that justice is the birthright of every human being. The Beloved Community is a nation at peace with itself where truth and facts matter.
By any objective standard, America is not currently at peace with itself. It is a nation presently more divided than it was four years ago. It’s a nation engaged in a fight for its identity. The choice this fall is moving toward or away from the Beloved Community. The Beloved Community accepts diverse ideas, is transparent, and expands public participation.
A nation built on division and hate demands blind allegiance to its leader, and speaks in racist, sexist, and supremacist tropes. Its leader incites political disorder, lacks transparency, promotes division, and voter suppression. This leader calls for law and order, and yet he has no problem violating the law.
A nation divided led by a divisive leader promotes an environment where racism can thrive. It’s an environment where a leader criticizes anyone who disagrees with them. It usually has a leader who increasingly limits information and gaslights the public, creating an environment where truth and facts don’t matter.
The best way to know who a person is to listen to what others close to them have to say. In an era of partisanship, if multiple people who a had close association with a divisive leader reject that leadership or question their capacity to serve, one must take notice. We don’t all have to agree on every issue, but we must hear each other respectfully.
John Lewis demonstrated the Beloved Community accepts those who formerly hated and beat him. The Beloved Community recognizes that love, not hate, is the superior value.
A Beloved Community doesn’t separate brown children from their mothers. It doesn’t fail to recognize that Black Lives Matter, nor does it marginalize women, see the good in racism, or support those who perpetrate violence. In a Beloved Community, truth and facts matter.
This fall, we cannot hope for things to turn out right because justice is not guaranteed. We have to work. We must stand up, and speak out. No longer is it good enough to say things will get better by and by. The moral arch only bends towards justice through the work of good people. People willing to get in “good trouble.”